Giddy About Broccoli and Food Choice
I have two kids. When it comes to eating, my three-year old daughter is a champ. From the time she started on solid foods, she amazed us with her tolerance for not-so-ordinary foods and acceptance of nearly everything to which we exposed her. To this day, she gets giddy over broccoli the same way other kids do candy. Being a lover of healthy foods myself, I’d like to think my influence has something to do with this.
She says, “I love broccoli. It’s like eating delicious little bushes.”
Enter my just-turned-one-year-old boy. In recent months, his philosophy on trying foods hasn’t changed drastically. For the most part (save for one episode last week where he literally turned his nose up at a strawberry), he’s been willing to try at least a bite of any food we put in front of him. It is, however, his philosophy on liking foods that has changed.
All hope isn’t lost… He did bite into a fresh-from-the-garden tomato and licked a green pepper (ahem… dirt and all) last weekend.
Of course, at just one year, he’s not able to tell me if it’s a taste thing, a texture thing, a temperature thing or just a tantrum thing (please tell me the terrible two’s aren’t already approaching). All I know is that if he doesn’t like the food, the hubster and I (or our dogs, if we’re lucky) will be on clean-up duty for the duration of the meal.
In our efforts to help shape his palate, we offer veggies and fruits first, knowing that including them is essential, but also having learned that those are the least likely to be consumed (whether they’re organic or not). Our hope is that, if he’s hungry (enough), he may just go for it. If he gets to a point where it’s clear that the canines are eating more than him, we introduce other essentials: proteins and dairy. He had, and seemed to enjoy (YAY for small victories) an egg for the first time this morning. Lo and behold, if everything else fails (and sometimes it does!), we know he’ll consume anything that starts with c-a-r-b. My husband swears that a calorie is a calorie at this point in his development and while I’m skeptical, I’m certainly not going to let the babe starve.
One thing we haven’t changed, however, is the fact that we serve one meal. Just because one in the group is being (somewhat) demanding about his preferred fare doesn’t mean that I’m going to eliminate that choice for the rest of the family.
This isn’t a trend I can say I’ve seen play out with consumers, though. It seems that those who are especially committed to a diet that restricts their choices, are oftentimes the “loudest voice in the room” (or the “vocal minority,” as we call it), making demands about the need to eliminate those choices for everyone. I’m sure you’ve seen them:
- The grandparent at the grocery store who raised chickens as a child and insists all eggs should be raised outdoors and be allowed to eat a diet that includes bugs, “because it’s best for the chickens.”
- The mom who fears her daughter may go into puberty earlier because of hormone-laden milk, so she buys only organic milk and insists all milk that isn’t organically produced should be taken off the shelves.
- The vegan neighbor who insists most (if not all) of the food offerings at your party be prepared without animal products and petitions her grocery store to stop selling meats in an effort to save the planet.
I’m all for personal choice. I think most people are. In focus groups I’ve attended with moms from Chicago and New York City, I repeatedly heard the women say that, while the majority of their food purchases were healthy, nutrient-dense, minimally-processed foods, they would be very irritated if someone laid a hand on their Twinkies (or Doritos or Oreos or… you get the picture). They felt the decision to put whatever foods in their cart should be solely theirs. When asked if they would be upset if an item they buy frequently was removed because of a demand of another consumer or consumer group, we heard a definite <LOUD>, “YES!” However, very few of them realized this is actually happening. One consumer – a young mother – brought to our attention that her favorite cereal had recently been “improved” (per the box’s claim) by updating its ingredients to eliminate gluten. For her, this was a huge irritation, not because it altered the taste, but rather, because it increased the price and it increased the calories per serving. Her feedback: “I’m not gluten intolerant, my budget is already stretched and I’m trying to watch my weight!” But no one asked her before the cereal company modified their recipe, so now she’s stuck with pinching pennies and increasing her reps at the gym. While I’m not sure what drove the cereal company to make the change, other companies and retailers have made changes because of the demands of vocal, concerned consumers who may or may not represent the majority opinion. A few examples:
- Transitioning to sugar from high-fructose corn syrup because advocates say natural sugar is the “better choice” (experts I talk to say that calories from sweeteners should be limited no matter the type)
- Elimination of phosphates in dishwashing detergents because of environmental concerns
- Two words: “pink slime”
Whether you believe having these choices taken away is for better or worse, that’s up to you. I’m positive there are people on both sides of the fence.
As for me, when it comes to making sure my picky and not-so-picky eaters have options available to suit their preferences, I’m hoping the choices that work for our family (I will find something that grew in the ground, on a vine, or from a tree that will appease the little mister’s taste buds) will continue to exist, even though they aren’t the same choices as the family down the street.
Posted by Roxi.